‘Tough being an adventurer in the twenty-first century.’ Robert Winrush, Adam Thorpe’s 51-year-old protagonist with kaleidoscopic morals, makes this observation when he abandons his work as a ‘freight dog’ – a freelance pilot who has been smuggling cargoes of weapons and mercenary soldiers – and takes flight from his vengeful, criminal employer. To earn brown envelopes bulging with sufficient cash to maintain a house and garden in Surrey and to send his son and daughter to boarding schools, Winrush has been able for some time to live with his false manifests, declaring freight as industrial machinery while in fact he is carrying deadly contraband, such as landmines. His previously adjustable conscience reaches a deadlock. He walks away from his contract and crew when he discovers that his latest illicit cargo is to be delivered to the Taliban.
As Thorpe suggests in his acknowledgements, aviation expertise is in his genes: members of his family served in the Royal Flying Corps, the RAF and Pan Am. He writes convincingly about various aircraft, even an Emirati prince’s DC-10 which has been adapted to accommodate a sauna and jacuzzi. After leaving